Book Review – Being a Head of Music: A Survival Guide

There is no doubt about it, at times, being a Head of Music is about survival. It is a job that is ever changing and there are always challenges and seasons that we need to overcome. But it is also the most wonderful and amazing job and no obstacle need get in the way of success.

If you are new to the role of HOD or you are a couple of years in and in need of inspiration then I want to recommend a book to you

“Being a Head of Music: A Survival Guide”

by Patrick Gazard, Jane Werry & David Ashworth

You have no doubt looked for books on how to approach the role of Head of Music, but you may not have found everything you need in one place. This book is exactly that and it contains so much useful stuff from people that have done the job or are currently doing the job. There is quite a lot of information, that would maybe be my only small criticism, but it is best to have everything. The clear chapter headings mean you can dip in and out of it. Reading it in one go may not work for you, but you can rest assured that everything is covered.

I love the opening statement in the book by Patrick:

  1. This book will not tell you how to teach music better;
  2. This book will not make you a perfect Head of Music in an instant.

I think this is a good place to start because ultimately a book can only do some of the work. How you approach this book and then what you do with it is possibly the most important thing.

The first chapter provides some helpful information about what you actually have to do in your new role. Of course this can vary, but this overview is crucial because it remind. I mention this because ultimately that is where you need to start – what on earth am I actually doing!

Chapter 2 is entitled “Chapter 2: Devising and delivering the music curriculum” and I think this chapter will be invaluable for a new HOD. The book has a wonderful style to it because it poses lots of questions and then gives you the answers – What is the point of teaching music at Key Stage 3? When you get in to the chapter and in fact the book, you feel like you are in conversation with a mentor and with every turn of the page something else leaps out at you. They are very much questions that we all have, but also questions that pop up for me even though I have been a HOD for many years.

Technology can be a tricky area for any music teacher. Budget cuts and a lack of desire to see music grow in a school can mean that technology is not always readily available. But this book provides some rich advice from one of the gurus of music technology in education, David Ashworth. This chapter takes in the current landscape of music education and points the way forward in terms of technology. There is specific advice and links to resources and so if technology is an area you are unsure of then I would urge you to read this chapter. You may have worked in a school with no technology and then landed a HOD job in a school with lots – you therefore really need this chapter as technology will change your teaching, and change your life frankly.

Jane Werry tackles a subject close to my heart in Chapter 4 – Extra Curricular. Those two words may bring you out in a sweat, but ultimately they are crucial to your department. Jane offers yet more practice advice, and I think that is the real selling point of this book. Whilst we all like to read theoretical and research based stuff, we also like to get answers to the common questions. The next chapter then tackles school concerts and I love the way Patrick writes about the almost mundane aspects such as lighting & length because they are just two examples of crucial elements to any school concert. I learnt a lot myself from the section on recording concerts as this is something I haven’t done and whilst i think it is a good idea I worry about actually getting it done. But this was a helpful section for me and it goes back my thoughts that this really is a book for all HODs as there is something in it for even the more experienced teacher.

So if you are looking at doing a musical, taking a music tour or you need open evening advice, then this is the book for you. If you are not sure about risk assessments, budgets or CPD then you need to read this book. It is packed full of what we all need – advice, reminders, tips and support. I would recommend that every new HOD grab a copy of this book. Don’t delay, because now we are in to the start of this term it is crucial that we look at the year ahead. But also if you are a little into your time as HOD there may be questions that have cropped up along the way.

To get a copy please visit:

You can even get a chapter for free. I hope it helps, I know it will! We can all learn something!

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